Russian Language Blog

Fairy Tale Living Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Culture


Do you love reading about Russia and all things Russian, however quirky they might be? Do you love «русские народные сказки» [Russian fairy tales]? Are you interested in the latest developments in «русско-украинские отношения» [Russian-Ukrainian relations]? Do you enjoy looking at «занимательные картинки» [entertaining pictures]? If you answered «да» (do I really need to translate this one?) to all of the above, then this is the post for you.

A while ago I wrote a couple of posts about some of the Russian fairy tale creatures. «В частности» [Particularly], I said:

Russian fairy tale land is located «за тридевять земель» [across thrice-nine lands] in the mythical «Лукоморье» [Lookomorie].

I then analyzed the word «лукоморье» and concluded that pretty much any bow-shaped «залив» [bay] could be it. That’s just not specific enough! But I’ll tell you more, my «объяснение» [explanation] of the whereabouts of Lookomorie, while «теоретически правильное» [correct in theory], is «практически не верно» [inaccurate in practice].

Turns out, there exists an actual «Сказочная карта России» [Fairy Tale Map of Russia] (thank you, Bob, for the tip off). Better yet, it is published as a cool and interactive «инфографика» [infographics]. The not so good news is that it’s available only in Russian. So let me go ahead and highlight some of the more quirky info:

Turns out, one of the most interesting fairy tale characters, «Баба Яга», the old witch Baba Yaga, hails from a small «село» [village] in Yaroslavskiy Province. At the same time, «Иванушка-дурачок» [Ivan the Fool] found his home in a national park in Arkhangelski Province.

Shouldn’t it be «наоборот» [the other way around]? Shouldn’t Baba Yaga live in a national park, given her habit of living alone and away from others? And shouldn’t Ivan live in a small village instead? The map explains that the park «забронировал» [laid claim to] Ivan some years ago and now hosts annual «дураковина» festivals.

This word is an interesting one. It’s a good example of how suffixes add multiple layers of meaning and amazing flexibility to Russian words.

  • Suffix «ов» is an adjective suffix that turns a noun into an adjective, as in words «береговой» [coastal], «домовой» [house], «розовый» [rose].
  • Suffix «ин» augments a noun, as in «детина» [big fellow], «скотина» [large animal], etc.

So «дураковина» means tomfoolery of epic proportions. It’s probably a festival where you are expected to «дурачиться» [clown around] and maybe even «одурачивать» [make fool of someone], «валять дурака» [play dumb] and «придуриваться» [to play fool].

The itinerant «Колобок» ran away from home in the town of Ulyanovsk, at least according to some researchers. Which makes him «земляк» [a fellow countryman] with Ulyanovsk’s other native son, «Владимир Ильич Ульянов» [Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov] aka «Владимир Ленин» [Vladimir Lenin]. Which might explain this highly unusual sculpture that used to grace a factory in the Ukrainian city of Odessa.

And speaking of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine have their share of squabbles over some critical issues, such as natural gas deliveries. And since fairy tale creatures are important cultural resources (for example, for «брендинг» [branding] and future merchandizing) they presented another possibility for «конфликт» [conflict].

Turns out, Ukrainians compiled their own fairy tale map which claims some of the same characters as the Russian map – «Колобок» [Kolobok], «Илья Муромец» [Ilya Murometz], and «Курочка Ряба» [the Speckled Hen].

As the saying goes, «история рассудит» [history will judge] who’s right and who’s got to build a museum or a monument first. One thing remains certain – «Архангельск – родина Снеговика» [Arkangelsk – the birthplace of Snowman].

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  1. Rob McGee:

    Гммм… мне кажется, что Карло Коллоди отнекивался бы, от пололжения что Буратино “родился” в Калининграде!

    (Hmm… it seems to me that Carlo Collodi would say no to the claim that Buratino was born in Kaliningrad!)

    Actually, I’m not sure if my sentence above is good Russian — I just wanted to try out the verb отнекиваться (to say “no” to).

    I think it might be better to say Коллоди не соглашался бы с положением (Collodi would not agree with the position…) or Коллоди оспаривал бы это утверждение (Collodi would dispute this assertion…).

    P.S. In any case, Буратино is no more a rip-off from Collodi than the Disney version of Pinocchio — both took great liberties with the Italian original!

  2. Rob McGee:

    Oops, sorry about that unclosed bold tag!

  3. Richard:

    Тот памятник Ленина походит на робот, это может ходить? Что делать?!?! 😯

    That monument to Lenin looks like a robot, can it walk?

  4. Rob McGee:

    Richard — generally, the person to whom a monument/memorial is dedicated goes in the dative case: “памятник кому-нибудь“. Thus, “a monument to Lenin” is памятник Ленину.

    BTW, the monument looks to me like the result of an argument between the artist and a committee. The artist’s vision was for something very geometric and abstract, but the committee insisted that the design must include a non-abstract, realistic representation of Lenin.

    А вот что получилось: огромный, кошмарный робот-марсианин с классическим бюстом Ленина наверху! (And here’s what resulted: a huge, nightmarish robot-Martian with a classical bust of Lenin on top!)

  5. Rob McGee:

    Also, be sure to check out that ссылка (Web link) in my previous comment.

    Ссылка указывает на смешную карикатуру в стиле старомодного русского лубка, кратко объяснающая и пародироющая фильм с Томом Крузом “Война миров”. (The link directs to a funny illustration in the style of an old-fashioned Russian lubók, briefly explaining and parodying the Tom Cruise film “War of the Worlds.”)

    By the way, a lubók is a “woodcut” print, but especially a Russian-style woodcut with a satirical theme and with captions in rhyming verse, as parodied here.

  6. Rob McGee:

    Ой блин, corrections to my own Russian:

    “…на смешную карикатуру…, кратко объясняющую и пародирующую фильм…”

    Since the present active participles объясняющий and пародирующий relate back to the feminine singular accusative карикатуру, they must also be feminine, singular, and accusative. (I had misspelled both participles, but worse still, I’d given them nominative endings!)

  7. Bob:

    Sorry to be late to the party, folks. . .

    Awsome article, Yelena! You managed to take my small concept, throw in some grammar and culture, and come up with a very entertaining read. Молодец!
    Thanks for the links, Rob! A new site to explore!

    Unfortunately, ever since I read the original article, I’ve been doing a russian-accented version of Shrek, screaming “Attention all fairy tale things – get back on my land!”. 🙂